i’ve been too long away, sorry for the lapse. i have a bevy of reasons that i shan’t bore you with (although there is a tantalizing, even maddening, mystery involved), but suffice to say The Book is coming along, i and my new roommate did some pretty blasphemous-looking things to some quails, and summer is as paradoxically uneven, leisurely, and dissatisfying as one should expect it to be.
in the absence of me having any actual ideas, here’s a passage from Cannery Row that i’ve thought of sharing before. the risk is that, out of context, its charm is lost, but i don’t imagine that i run the risk of discouraging anyone from reading it. it’s an excellent book, and remarkable for being one of the few of Steinbeck’s novels that isn’t so soul-crushing. all you really need to know is that Doc is both rock and foil for many of the other characters, and a great lover of beer. what is perhaps more interesting is that the first part of the quotation i have stumbled upon in many places across the blogosphere, but the second, which appears many chapters later, does not seem to have attracted so much attention. i wonder why?
i hope the juxtaposition isn’t too jarring.
While he ate his sandwich and sipped his beer, a bit of conversation came back to him. Blaisedell, the poet, had said to him, “You love beer so much, I’ll bet some day you’ll go in and order a beer milk shake.” It was a simple piece of foolery but it had bothered Doc ever since. He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer. Would it curdle the milk? Would you add sugar? It was like a shrimp ice cream. Once the thing got into your head you couldn’t forget it. He finished his sandwich and paid Herman. He purposely didn’t look at the milk shake machines lined up so shiny against the back wall. If a man ordered a beer milk shake, he thought, he’d better do it in a town where he wasn’t known. But then, a man with a beard, ordering a beer milk shake in a town where he wasn’t known – they might call the police.
much later, after a distressing hitch-hiking episode, we are treated to the following:
Doc walked angrily to the counter of the stand.
The waitress, a blonde beauty with just the hint of a goiter, smiled at him. “What’ll it be?”
“Beer milk shake,” said Doc.
Well here it was and what the hell. Might just as well get it over with now as some time later.
The blonde asked, “Are you kidding?”
Doc knew wearily that he couldn’t explain, couldn’t tell the truth. “I’ve got a bladder complaint,” he said. “Bipalychaetorsonectomy the doctors call it. I’m supposed to drink a beer milk shake. Doctor’s orders.”
The blonde smiled reassuringly. “Oh! I thought you were was kidding,” she said archly. “You tell me how to make it. I didn’t know you was sick.”
“Very sick,” said Doc, “and due to be sicker. Put in some milk, and add half a bottle of beer. Give me the other half in a glass – no sugar in the milk shake,” When she served it, he tasted it wryly. And it wasn’t bad – it just tasted like stale beer and milk.
“It sounds awful,” said the blonde.
“It’s not so bad when you get used to it,” said Doc. “I’ve been drinking it for seventeen years.”